LiquidSonics Seventh Heaven by Sound-Guy
Seventh Heaven by LiquidSonics
Let’s face it – you would love to have a real Bricasti M7, but at £3,659 (or $3,950 in the US) it is a bit on the expensive side. One of the best digital emulations that includes all the M7 presets is LiquidSonics Seventh Heaven Pro previously reviewed on Gearspace (search for LiquidSonics in GS Reviews). But if you want a very useful high quality emulation of an excellent subset of the M7 presets at a very fair price, LiquidSonics also has a standard edition of Seventh Heaven available. I decided to give it a try and was impressed.
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The standard edition of Seventh Heaven (SH) is significantly different than the Pro version with some control and quality limitations I’ll describe later. SH presents a clean front panel with a big knob in the centre to select from 30 presets in six categories, as you can see above. The expected wet/dry Mix knob is at the left and an output Gain knob at the right. In the lower left and right are input and output ladder meters that show the peak reading of the loudest channel to help with gain staging, although SH itself isn’t bothered with levels way over 0 dBFS. In addition, the default reverb length shown below the Preset knob (1.20 seconds in the above view) can be changed by dragging in the window with the cursor (or using the mouse wheel), from as low as 200 msec up to 30 seconds for any preset (the same minimum and maximums available within the M7 hardware itself). Clicking the small down-arrow at the bottom centre opens up the advanced panel with six additional controls. So the chosen preset defines the early reflection pattern, the tone (reflection/reverb roll-off filters and low frequency reverb level), the nominal length for the late reverberation, and the settings of the advanced controls. You can go with a preset as is, or change the reverb length and any of the advanced controls, so you are certainly not restricted to just 30 reverberation effects.
In the upper left corner are controls to load and save user presets (the factory presets are chosen with the big knob or by clicking the preset name to open a drop-down window with all presets), a gear icon to access a number of settings such as the initial preset to load at start-up, a selection of parameters to lock when changing presets, the default visibility of the advanced controls, CPU efficiency (by selecting zero latency or a selection of sample sizes up to 8,192 samples), and several other settings. And there is an interactive assistance function turned on/off using the (?) button.
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The lower panel gains access to Pre-Delay, Delay, Low Cut and High Cut filters, VLF (low frequency reverb level control) and an Early/Late balance control. Pre-Delay should be familiar if you have ever used a reverb – it is a time delay from the start of an input signal to the start of the late and low frequency reverberation – it does not affect the early reflections. Pre-Delay values can be set from 0 to 500 msec and can also be synchronised to song tempo. The Delay control feeds a delayed copy of the dry signal back into the late reverb engine with 6 dB of attenuation which creates lower level repeated reverbs – it has a range of 0 to 1,000 msec and can also be tempo-synced for some unique rhythm effects. The low and high cut filters provide 12 dB/octave cuts that affect only the wet signal.
The VLF is a feature common to many LiquidSonics reverbs, and of course to the M7 itself, which controls the level of a separate very low frequency reverberation effect (200 Hz and below). It helps to ensure low-end reverb is full of presence when short decay times are selected and yet will not swamp the low end with boomy sub-bass when longer decay times are used, a problem with many traditional reverbs. The Early/Late mix control adjusts the balance of early reflections to long term late reverberation, and fully counter-clockwise presents only the early reflections which can be a useful environmental effect and can fill out vocals and instruments without adding longer reverberation tails.
That’s about it! Simple, yet flexible, and provides excellent three-dimensional sounding environments. Even if it is not a real Bricasti, it certainly creates a beautiful realistic sound panorama that I find excellent.
Compared to Seventh Heaven Pro (and a real Bricasti), the obvious missing elements are number of presets (30 here, 236 in Pro) and number of advanced controls (six here, over twenty in Pro), and more detailed metering in Pro. Additionally, the standard version does not include captures from the Bricasti M7 v2 firmware which exhibit brighter tails with more modulation. Seventh Heaven Standard uses only Bricasti v1 firmware presets (the original version that actually made the device famous). The reverb tails in v1 firmware are static, but include a time-invariant modulation component in the VLF and reflections. Seventh Heaven Pro includes Bricasti v1, v2 and some non-linear mode samples. I’d say you get what you pay for and the standard edition of Seventh Heaven is an excellent buy and sounds as fine as most people really need, but if you’ve got the cash, Pro will take you all the way.
Seventh Heaven is available as 64 bit VST2.4, VST3, AU and AAX formats for Windows (Windows 7 or above) and Mac OS X 10.9 or above. 32-bit DAWs are also supported by using an older version available on the legacy downloads page at the LiquidSonics website. Note that Seventh Heaven uses the iLok/Pace activation system (and note that machine, cloud and USB activation locations are now all supported). You should first download the latest version at iLok.com, then load and run an instance of SH in your DAW while connected to the Internet, and when it asks for an activation code, enter it. This will automatically set it up in your iLok account and you can choose the activation type (machine, cloud and/or dongle). If you choose the dongle or machine mode, you won’t need an Internet connection to use Seventh Heaven in future projects.
In my test system (PC Audio Labs Rok Box PC with Windows 7, 64 Bit, 4-Core Intel i7-4770K, 3.5 GHz, and 16 GB RAM) Seventh Heaven uses about 0.4% CPU resources with the zero latency setting. With 4,096 samples of latency the CPU load dropped to 0.2%. The program when installed and running uses about 80 MB of RAM for a single instance, but as I have seen with other plug-ins, running multiple instances does not directly multiply the RAM usage – five instances used about 300 MB. The program files with database use about 600 MB of drive space (and you can put the large files on any drive if, for example, you have a unique sample drive).
Seventh Heaven has been called a convolution reverb that sounds like, and can be controlled like, an algorithmic reverb. It is a very clean, “3-dimensional” processor that creates believable spatial environments rather than an added-on echo effect. I checked for harmonic distortion and aliasing, and could find none even at zero latency, although it’s a bit hard to judge in a reverb with signals bouncing all about! Seventh Heaven handles emulations of small spaces very well, without the metallic ringing or buzzing that many reverb processors create. Small room settings really feel like a recording made in a small room. And the large spaces feel open and, well, large. Listening to the end of a long decay with the gain of my DAW boosted 60 dB (DON’T try this at home!) presents a clean fade to extinction with a natural sounding variation in tones and level.
Note that version 1.3.4 adds support for Fusion-IR content pack automation during full preset automations (VST3, AU and AAX only) as well as the BIG improvement, support for iLok machine activation (in addition to dongle and Cloud activation). This has been on many people’s wish list, and it is now here.
A clean, easy to use interface with excellent presets and fast access to half a dozen advanced features.
Excellent, “dimensional sound” that brings the chosen environment to life.
Very Low Frequency Reverb engine provides excellent presence for drums and percussion.
Early/Late mix control of individual reverb engines help craft beautiful reverb environments.
Pre-Delay and Multi-Voice Delay include tempo synchronisation for unique rhythm effects.
User control of the scalable GUI, lockable parameters when changing presets, default visibility of the advanced controls, and CPU efficiency adjustable in five steps from zero latency to 8,192 samples.
Well, it’s not a real modern Bricasti! See the What's Missing section above. But it does cost less than 2% as much as the genuine article!